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Thursday, 26 June 2003
Page: 17691

Ms GILLARD (3:12 PM) —I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Lalor moving forthwith:

That this House censures the Howard Government and the Minister for Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs for:

(1) failing to refer to the Federal Police for investigation the allegation that Dante Tan paid Mr Kisrwani the sum of $220,000 in exchange for Mr Kisrwani using his in-fluence to stop the cancellation of Mr Dante Tan's visa;

(2) failing to properly explain the awarding of permanent residency and citizenship to Dante Tan, the Philippines most-wanted corpor-ate fugitive, following a donation of $10,000 to the Liberal Party from Mr Tan;

(3) failing to properly explain the inappropriate and recurring involvement of Mr Karim Kisrwani in a large number of migration cases where applicants have sought Minis-terial intervention in the awarding of a visa and most especially that of Dante Tan and Bedweny Hbeiche; and

(4) for continuing to undermine the integrity and honesty of Australia's migration system via his awarding of visas following donations to the Liberal Party.

During the last three weeks, as the cash for visas scandal has unfolded, this House has heard of the Lebanese Friends of Mr Ruddock. What now stands revealed is that Minister Ruddock is the President of the Australian Friends of Mr Karim Kisrwani and Mr Dante Tan was vice-president of the very same organisation. One can only assume that one of the reasons Mr Dante Tan—this Christopher Skase style figure—fled the country, is so he can travel the world setting up international branches of the Karim Kisrwani friendship group. No doubt that is why the government sat idly by and let Dante Tan flee the country. There may have been a chase for Skase, but no-one in the Howard government wanted to be part of the plan to catch Tan.

The minister for immigration deserves censure for the cash for visas scandal. The scandal is a complex one, and the key to understanding it is to understand the roles played by Minister Ruddock and Mr Karim Kisrwani. Mr Kisrwani is the key which unlocks the door to this scandal. Mr Kisrwani is a personal friend of the minister for immigration going back over a number of decades: they dine together; they are frequently in each other's company; Mr Kisrwani is able to ring members of the minister's staff; Mr Kisrwani is able to ring members of the minister's department and have them record on file that that intervention has been made. He is a peddler of influence, a Mr Fix it: `Go and see Mr Kisrwani and he fixes up visas for you.'

And now we have an allegation that Mr Kisrwani received $220,000 from Mr Dante Tan, the Philippines' most wanted corporate fugitive, in order for him to use his influence with this minister to get that matter resolved. We have an allegation of $220,000 changing hands and, as I understand it from question time, this government most certainly does not want to investigate it. As I understand it, they are not even sure they want to debate it as we are doing here today. We are asking the minister for immigration to come forward and explain the nature of his relationship with Mr Kisrwani, the number of matters Mr Kisrwani has been involved in, whether he has ever had any information before him that Mr Kisrwani has charged for his `immigration services' in breach of the law, and what is known about this allegation of $220,000.

What we do know is that day after day in this House we have asked this minister to detail how many times Mr Kisrwani has approached him about immigration matters. Question after question and day after day, that stands unanswered. It is not that the system is not capable of generating figures. When the minister wants it to generate figures about East Timorese, it does; when the minister wants it to generate figures about the number of second interventions, it does; when the minister thinks he is on a good case against the member for Reid, it somehow spews out figures remarkably. The only figure we cannot get from the system is the figure that is the key to this scandal, which is: how many times has Mr Karim Kisrwani been involved? I suspect the reason the minister does not want to do that is that, even formally on the file, in the form of letters, there will be many, many interventions—hundreds, I would suggest.

Mr Crean —Just run the word search!

Ms GILLARD —Yes; he does not want to do that search, because he knows that the number will be high. I believe another reason that the minister does not want to do it is that he knows that many of the matters that have come to his attention from Mr Kisrwani have been in circumstances where there would not be a letter or there would not be a file note, because there has been a private discussion which has ensured that that file has got in front of the minister. That is the reason that the minister is stonewalling on answering how many times Mr Karim Kisrwani has been involved in immigration matters. If I am wrong about that, then during the course of this afternoon the minister can tell us that figure. It simply defies belief to say the system cannot produce that figure when it has produced so many other figures.

Let us turn to the question of Mr Kisrwani and his role in the Dante Tan matter. There is an allegation now about $220,000, but there is so much else unexplained about the Dante Tan matter. This is a man who comes to this country to build a business. The minister asserts a business was built. He asserts that on the departmental file there is a business monitoring survey and he asserted on television—but never in this House—that there are bills of lading attached to that. What he has not asserted, and what I do not think he will ever assert, is that there actually was a business. There might have been a load of documents, but there actually was not a business. The Philippines' biggest corporate crook comes to Australia, engages in a bit of document manipulation and there is never an independent check as to whether or not there was a business. But we do know that there was a donation to the Liberal Party—an actually disclosed donation to the Liberal Party—and there is an allegation about a major payment by Dante Tan.

In this House during the course of this week, the minister stonewalled on these matters. He has refused to actually answer this question: how many times has he dealt with Mr Karim Kisrwani on immigration matters? He has said, `I stand by the decisions I made.' Good result, Minister; good result. Dante Tan gets into Australia, gets a permanent visa and expedited citizenship, and then flees the country. Good result; good decision to stand by. Got that 100 per cent right, didn't we? This is the man who holds himself out as the architect of the integrity of the immigration system. Yet here he is standing by a result where a corporate fugitive, who is on the local warning list in the Philippines embassy—warning, warning; this is a bad person—got into this country and despite that, following a donation to the Liberal Party and following a course of dealing with Mr Karim Kisrwani potentially involving $220,000, this man gets permanent residency and expedited access to Australian citizenship. And if people in this House on that side do not think that requires explanation, then I really do not know what they would say requires explanation.

Ms GILLARD —There is a lot of waving of hands here, but that is what has happened, and I believe that the two ministers—the Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs as well—know that. Mr Karim Kisrwani is clearly the key to these matters.

What we also know is that not only is Mr Kisrwani involved in the Dante Tan matter—he is not just rubbing shoulders with the biggest corporate crook from the Philippines—but also he is absolutely key to the Hbeiche matter, which we have raised in this place and which still remains largely unexplained. There has never been an explanation as to how the file got to the minister on the third occasion. He has dealt with it twice; on the second occasion they say, `Don't show this to him any more.' What got it back up to you again, Minister? The only possible explanation for that is that you asked for it or a member of your staff asked for it, and then you determined to make a decision on information which was available on the file six years earlier—an unexplained matter. This short opportunity—there is a lot more to go through—is my opportunity to say to this minister: you have got an option now to explain your relationship with Karim Kisrwani. He is the key to this scandal. Your relationship with him is the key to the scandal. There is an allegation about $220,000 changing hands. He is at the centre of the Dante Tan matter. He is at the centre of the Bedweny Hbeiche matter. Karim Kisrwani, with Minister Ruddock, is at the centre of the cash for visas scandal, much of which, after four weeks of parliamentary questioning, remains unexplained. It should be explained now. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER —Is the motion seconded?

Mr Laurie Ferguson —I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

Mr Latham —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Ten minutes ago when the member for Lalor moved her suspension motion to facilitate a censure in the House, the Prime Minister said, `I accept it.'

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Werriwa has the call. I do not know why he would need any help from anyone behind him.

Mr Latham —Mr Speaker, the Leader of the House has just said, `We will take the suspension.' This makes the point perfectly. The member for Lalor has the right to move the suspension, irrespective of what the government thinks. There is no right to accept or refuse it. The Prime Minister having said, `I accept it,' the only thing he can possibly accept is the censure motion, which should now proceed before the House.

The SPEAKER —Let me indicate that from the chair's perspective all that has happened to date is entirely according to Hoyle—or the standing orders, which may be even better, if you reflect on it. The member for Lalor has moved to suspend standing orders, and the time allocated for her to do so is as is normally the case. The member for Reid has indicated that he wanted to second it. I now recognise the Leader of the House.